This is a mini series about progressing in the profession. it is such a great job, aim high, work hard, be creative and work together ( it’s what we say to children too)
Starting with teacher training| schools direct , PGCE or teach first , some tips:
You know a little
You once ( maybe recently) went to school. this doesn’t make you an expert, except an expert on people in school that are like you were in school, but there are a few thousand other types of pupils. One of the most important things you can do at the start of your course is look out for opportunities to observe and interact with as many different sorts of children, teachers, classes and even schools as you can do. Once you have a job in school these opportunities are few and far between. Start in your subject area but try and watch some of the same children in kindred subjects too- practical ones if you are a scientist etc
Observe, watch, learn, ask questions and keep a decent diary or reflective journal.
Able classes, mixed ability classes, set classes, SEND pupils G and T pupils, EAL pupils and PP pupils and if you dont know the jargon- there is your first lesson.
Initiation goes broader than the first visit, the school might give you access to a staff handbook – read it, maybe not all the stuff on “running trips” but on behaviour, on systems on routines. You are a graduate you can read it and take it all in.
Remember your manners
Be polite, and be careful! please avoid any patronising comments to staff. The ” that was a good lesson” makes you sound like Ofsted, we don’t like judgments, we find judgment quite tricky, please don’t come and say “that was good” or you are a good teacher – we are over sensitive. However you can try to tease out what you think went well and ask us. You can ask the class teacher – “what do you want me to look out for?” Also have a dialogue “can I ask you about….?” Don’t forget a teacher that you watch, who has taught for say 3 years in a secondary, has taught well over 2000 lessons, and someone like me who has taught for 34 years a lot more. It’s not that we are arrogant or have all the answers but we want you to appreciate this is our classroom and it is a privilege for you to come in and watch. Whilst we are on manners – appearance is important, if you do TP in a school with strict uniform, you too need to set a high standard, and if the school isn’t strict with uniform well frankly you still need to be. You have to fit into their ethos or it starts going wrong before your very eyes. Be punctual, schools are busy places but set yourself high standards, be on time for meetings, be early for lessons when you are free before them.
Probably behaviour is your biggest bother. Will the class behave for you? Will the class riot? Will some individual challenge me, even find me out? What will I do if? Well there is plenty of advice, books to read,TES articles and blog posts ( yes put Facebook and Twitter to good use! Get Tom Bennett’s book on behaviour and read it, make notes, watch how teachers control and learn.
From Observing to teaching
After watching for a few weeks you might get to teach or take a part of the lesson. This is part of the step by step of learning the job and your training but you can anticipate this from the start. Once you have observed a while at some appropriate moments you can join in – say help with an activity, a practical etc. This is also your chance to get to know a few names while doing the initial observing – learning names is the most critical of tasks in the classroom. Every time you end up saying “right 8XZ or right class” for a second time, then you don’t know enough names. By all means we call a class to order, but those who don’t conform need calling by name. But also watch the routines, the way children are asked to enter, sit down get books out etc. Oh and remember when you first sat on a bicycle, you watched that adult, it looked easy and….you fell off. So take care we professionals might make it look easy but… and when you observe I bet you can spot when teachers make a mistake and stuff doesn’t go well but much harder to identify the magic of what makes the lesson go well.
Next up then you need to prepare, it feels an enormous task when you start, get used to it as it is one of the most important and it will take a lot of time; in school, out of school, books, electronic resources and planning sheets. do as you are asked, and hey show and tell!
Listen and Learn
Listen carefully to advice, and always act upon that advice – this goes for those bits you are desperate to get stuck into – such as being in the classroom but just as important at those training sessions with staff – on child protection, on health and safety, on accessing and keeping secure electronic work and especially schools resources and possible Information Management Systems.
Most important try to get the bigger picture, talk to as many teachers without adding to their workload, attend appropriate meetings especially parents meetings. you might get a session with senior staff, prepare for this. They are busy people so think what you wish to ask, and again listen carefully. When I meet our student teachers, I ask them to read some of my blog posts in my timetable of teaching, we share what they have read about, discussing the main points of each, I then ask them if they have seen examples of the roleplay in lessons and around the school. i feel it’s my job to share the school vision, see if they have seen it in action and discuss what makes a great teacher.
There are a few absolutely key people you are linked to. A mentor in your subject and probably a student teacher coordinator. you should also know and meet the designated teacher for child protection. Make sure you talk with them especially if you are uncertain, unsure or confused, or indeed having any problems. Remember the school have let you be part of their teaching community and you will be teaching their children, you have a duty to do that as well as you can even at this tender stage. Those children only get the one chance! I often say to sixth formers who ask if they might make teach, that a good teacher needs to be able to inspire children with a passion for their subject, needs to be able to love children and needs a sack full of stamina.
You will get lots from mentors,coordinators University tutors, from staff whose classes you take, maybe a few parents or pupils. Note it, learn from it, change and adjust your ways, try out what the suggestions are. Don’t worry you’ll make mistakes, hopefully nothing ire irretrievable so try things get feedback and learn- that’s why it’s called teaching practice. Got the message, ‘listen and learn’.
And be assured, most people who are open and transparent and keen to listen and work hard they will begin the transition to student teacher, and a journey to great teacher.
and so here begins your homework. Check out each post and then see if you can summarise the main points ready for a discussion
Monday period 0 – Inspiration or Perspiration. Just how important are Assembly occasions to school life, particularly when they seem to demand such a disproportionate preparation time.
Monday period 5 – A simple and profound lesson to learn. A bit of a holiday ritual and the reminder of wise teachers who taught us so much, where are the next generation? Just what influences you the classroom teacher
Monday period 6 – Extra Curricular? NO – vital lifeblood. We are all aware of the importance of the extra curricular life of a school but does it go further into influencing behaviour and if so how do we protect it?
Tuesday period 4 – Subversive Students. Teachers, have you ever found yourself distracted by your pupils from the task in hand? Can you identify those tactics and then use them to your own subversive purposes and to the benefit of the learning?
Tuesday period 5 – Accountability, Responsibility or Pressure.There seems layer after layer of accountability for teachers. As professional teachers responsibilities are clear, are we too accountable? Do the system ensure standards, raise standards or bring stultifying fear and pressure?
Wednesday period 0 – Literacy. The Bullock report in the 70’s suggested every teacher was an English teacher. Believe that or not every teacher knows the importance of literacy. How do we raise standards of literacy so the whole school community can benefit?
Wednesday period 4 – Data rich, information poor. There is just so much data in schools, and so many analytical tools: Fischer family trust, Raiseonline,4matrix, ALPS, Panda. teacher’s own markbooks and dept analyses. Is it overwhelming? Let’s get back to the day job.
Thursday period 1 – Overlook the Ordinary, No they are special. My brief plea not to overlook the silent (ish) majority of pupils in school.
Thursday period 2 – Second Chance? Third Chance?Any Chance? No Chance! How many chances do we give our pupils when they make mistakes and what principles do we show and use. Do we let others down by forgiving too often?
Friday period 1 – Simple, not really. So often we teachers seem to read how our school and education system can be turned round by a bit of this or that. We face judgments (accountability) summing up the complex community we work in and try to inspire with one simple word = “good” or….
Friday period 5 – Perseverance. I love Friday period 5 but there is a challenge to raise the stakes in this lesson to make the week finish purposefully, or maybe the term to finish on a great note.
Sunday period 3 – Plans off the shelf? No – planning is critical. In response to a twitter discussion about planning lessons, and plans and what the job might entail.
Some suggested reading thanks to @Peter_Staddon @AlisonMPeacock
Tomlinson ‘learn to love assessment’
Nuttals ‘Hidden Lives of Learners’
Alison Peacock ‘Creating Learning without limits’
Tom Bennett ‘The Behaviour Guru: Behaviour Management Solutions for Teachers’
Michael Marland ‘The Craft of the Classroom: A Survival Guide to Classroom Management in the Secondary School’
- Twitter teachers and Blogs to follow
- and watch out for #NQT which might also have a bit of advice